CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, FL – The second batch of 60 SpaceX Starlink broadband satellites blasted off today on a beautiful Veterans Day Monday morning, Nov. 11 atop the first ever quadruply launched Falcon 9 first stage booster and first ever re-flown payload fairings encapsulating the next generation payload stack – thereby marking multiple truly historic milestones in spaceflight soaring aloft from the Florida Space Coast.
Moreover this slew of upgraded Starlink satellites also counts as the heaviest payload to date launch on a Falcon 9.
It also put a fiery and most welcome end to an uncommonly lengthy 3-month-long launch drought at the Cape.
SpaceX’s highly anticipated Starlink broadband constellation now begins to grow in orbit as the satellite deployments took place as planned starting approximately an hour after blastoff.
Liftoff of the Starlink mission took place under a mix of sunny and cloudy but serene skies at 9:56 a.m. EST (1456 GMT) during an instantaneous launch window Monday, Nov 11 from Space Launch Complex-40 (SLC-40) on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL.
Enjoy our Space UpClose gallery of imagery from the launch and prelaunch activities. Check back as the gallery grows.
The recycled Falcon 9 rocket streaked to orbit to begin the build out of what could eventually amount to a constellation of tens of thousands of next generation of satellites that will revolutionize the way the world accesses and uses the internet in the next few years by slashing prices and broadening coverage to hard to reach places across the globe.
At least that’s the hope and dream of put forth by SpaceX CEO and billionaire founder Elon Musk for his planned network of Low Earth orbiting (LEO) Starlink satellites that will eventually number in the thousands and thousands to provide global high speed broadband internet services to customers worldwide.
The 229-foot-tall (70-meter) Falcon 9 ignited at 9:56 a.m. EST with 1.7 million pounds of liftoff thrust spewing from the 9 Merlin 1D first stage engines fueled by liquid oxygen and RP-1 propellants.
The stages separated 2 minutes 36 seconds after launch and the payload fairing halves opened and jettisoned 3 minutes 24 seconds after launch.
Eight minutes later the Falcon 9 first stage successfully made a precision rocket assisted intact and upright touchdown on the ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ droneship prepositioned in the Atlantic Coast off the Carolinas.
This marks the fourth successful launch and landing for the first stage booster – thus setting the stage for a fifth mission.
These upgraded Block 5 Falcon 9 first stages are designed for 10 launches with minimal refurbishment says Musk.
Falcon 9’s first stage previously supported the Iridium-7, SAOCOM-1A, and Nusantara Satu comsat/Beresheet moon landing missions.
Both of the payload fairing halves encapsulating the 60 Starlink satellites are recycled from being previously flown on the Falcon Heavy Arabsat-6A mission earlier this year on April 11 that was recovered after use by plucking them from the salty, corrosive ocean waters off Florida’s east coast.
Only the Falcon 9 2nd stage is not being reused here for the Starlink mission and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has had his engineers working on that feat too.
Thus the Starlink mission marks a truly major milestone in space history.
The rocket hardware recovery, recycling and reuse is all done by CEO Elon Musk and team in the name of driving down the high cost of access to space and thereby simultaneously cast expand our access.
SpaceX has relaunched several recovered 1st stage boosters on a third mission to space.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has made rocket recycling a top priority in order to slash launch costs.
Musk says that the fairings cost approximately $6 million or roughly 10% of the approximate cost of $60 million for a new Falcon 9 rocket.
Notably SpaceX is risking only their own satellites for this first time mission with reused fairings and boosters.
Successful deployment of 60 Starlink satellites confirmed! pic.twitter.com/bpBqO9oYR3
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) November 11, 2019
SpaceX had planned to recover both these fairings and booster as well.
SpaceX naval fleet now includes 2 fairing recovery ships outfitted with giant nets to attempt to catch both halves some 733 km downrange before they splash into the Atlantic approximately 45 minutes after liftoff – namely GO MS TREE and GO MS CHIEF.
However due to rough seas they both sailed back into a local port.
SpaceX deployed the “Of Course I Still Love You” (OCISLY) droneship which successfully served as the ocean going platform for a soft landing of the first stage booster some 628 km downrange in the Atlantic Ocean.
Watch this SpaceX video of the booster landing on OCISLY:
Falcon 9 first stage has landed on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship – the fourth launch and landing of this booster pic.twitter.com/qQvH7pwMDO
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) November 11, 2019
“Starlink is a next-generation satellite network capable of connecting the globe, especially reaching those who are not yet connected, with reliable and affordable broadband internet services,” says SpaceX.
The Starlink satellites are manufactured by SpaceX – as well the rockets.
The constellation could eventually number over 20,000 or more satellites in low earth orbit.
“The Starlink satellites will deploy at an altitude of 280 km. Prior to orbit raise, SpaceX engineers will conduct data reviews to ensure all Starlink satellites are operating as intended. Once the checkouts are complete, the satellites will then use their onboard ion thrusters to move into their intended orbits.”
This marks the first launch by SpaceX since August 6 and will be their 11th of 2019.
The two stage Falcon 9 rocket stands 229 feet (70 meters) tall.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com –www.spaceupclose.com – twitter @ken_kremer – email: ken at kenkremer.com
Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics.
Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events
Ken’s upcoming outreach events:
Nov 11: 7 PM, Quality Inn Kennedy Space Center, Titusville, FL. “SpaceX Starlink Launch Nov 11.” Free in hotel lobby
Nov 23, 1 PM, Titusville, FL: “50th Anniversary Apollo 12 and NASA’s Human Return to the Moon with Project Artemis” at American Space Museum, Titusville, FL. Lecture free. Open to the public.